The first time Patrick met Pete Wentz - on his doorstep, dragged from slumber, mind foggy from dreams of chasing small, nimble prey - he had to use all the skills at his disposal.
"Hi there! I'm Pete," his future bandmate said brightly, grin stretched, bouncing on his toes, close to bounding straight over Patrick and into the house.
Patrick felt his anger swell towards Joe for this unwanted intrusion into the sanctity of his home and his music. The temper that he tried to keep tightly locked down in case the wolf got a little too carried away niggled at him, whispering to him to make his friend suffer for sending the Pete Wentz around with no warning.
"Joe tells me you're, like, amazing at everything music related. Lemme hear!"
It's not what Patrick expected from the hardcore scene legend. He was overwhelmed by Pete's similarity to a boisterous puppy, all energy and affection. But there was something hidden between the eagerness of his grin and the uncertainty that flashed in his eyes. The way he rocked back, harnessing the impulse to enter until granted permission, gave Patrick a clue.
For the first time he found himself willing to sacrifice his much-guarded privacy. He had to find out what more there was to this boy. The wolf wouldn't be intrigued into acquiescence so easily.
He found it a relief to settle, with welcome familiarity, into the dominant role. Setting aside his inner fanboy glee and the teeny tiny blush that may have started to rise when the word "amazing" tripped off Wentz's lips, he mustered all the gravitas he could to order:
"Pete. Downstairs, now. Take off your shoes. Don't touch anything."
And after a brief moment of hesitation, in which curious mixed emotions flecked Pete's face, he complied. Taking the stairs at breakneck speed he glanced back over his shoulder at Patrick, a playful smirk twisting his grin.
"Pink argyle and orange socks, huh?" he joshed, testing.
"Colourblind, asshole," Patrick snapped back. It was just one of the mixed bag of skills and disadvantages that the wolf contributed to his life.
Pete demurred and promised never to speak of it again (crossing his heart and pinky swearing), which he may or may not have intended to abide by.
Patrick knew they had to pay their dues, had to haul their own gear in a limping van around the backwaters and bright lights of the country trying to build an empire of fans to make the whole music career thing viable. What he didn't know was why it had to resemble his own personal version of hell.
After another show at another small town youth club, at another afterparty at the house of some girl they'd just met, there was barely any time for a few drinks and as much of a grope as the girl's friends would allow, nevermind showers or laundry or, god forbid, basic hygiene.
After washing himself the best he could in the sink at Jenna's?, Gemma's? Gina's? party he ducked out for a walk, heading in any direction that didn't smell like teenage hormones.
'Van call at 3am. Think im gettin me sum 2nite' came the text from Andy, who somehow managed to be responsible and incorrigible at the same time. That left Patrick two hours to ready himself for the nightly onslaught to his senses.
He'd traded his independence and privacy to share his every waking minute in the company of three hormonal young men and their very "fragrant" auras and he would like a medal, thank you very much, for enduring it so well. Gone was the safety of his parents' basement, freedom to change his form at will, a large backyard in which to run free, and their wordless understanding of the condition that had been in their genes for generations. Now he second-guessed every impulse, trying not to slip up and appear anything less than human in front of the guys he most wanted to impress. He spent the long days and nights closely guarding his secret, tamping down on the wolf's needs and instincts and making excuses to avoid playing concerts on the full moon. He wouldn't give it up - the music meant too much to him - each hard-won fan, each CD sold was another link in the armour to protect him from detractors and self-doubt. But some nights were harder than others.
He was first back to the van. Without a key, he jimmied open the passenger window the way they learned to a week into the tour and shuffled into his usual spot. His nose buried in his still relatively clean pillow ("Touch it and die, Trohman" "Oooookay, Patty, if you still need a blankie that's none of my business.") he tried to drown out the ambient scents of the van, the lingering body odour, stale microwaved burritos, dried blood, rusting motor oil, unwashed feet. If he could desensitize enough before the rest of the guys got there it would help. If he could sleep it would be even better.
Joe clambered in the window first, a haze of pot smoke almost visibly curling around him. It tickled Patrick's nose and he snuffled, sleepily.
Andy crawled in next and Patrick roused to see a self-satisfied smile and smell a post-coital fug. He'd never begrudge his bandmates their fun but the tightening in his pants that accompanied the heady smell of sexsexsex left him squirming for a position that neither aggravated nor disclosed his predicament.
It also left him far from sleep when Pete finally arrived and attempted to wedge himself between the bench and Patrick, burrowing his way into Patrick's breathing space. He, too, reeked of the bitter musk of sex, along with the usual Pete smells - real milk (not soya) from his Starbucks coffee abominations, sweet exhausted excitement, Sharpie, a cacophony of hair styling products and something metallic, which Patrick attributed to medication.
On a good day, when they'd maybe been within 100 yards of a fully functioning bathroom, Patrick reveled in these times. He was content to curl in close, to press his nose to Pete's neck and inhale deeply, feeling the delicious pull of want from inside. The wolf had very strong ideas about Pete being part of its pack and Patrick could do little to dissuade it. With Pete so close it was almost too easy to give in to the primordial desire to claim Pete and keep him safe. Patrick tried not to think about how the biggest threat to Pete's safety was in fact the wolf's urges.
On nights like this the assault was too much. He could practically taste the girl that Pete was inside a short time ago. The wolf rankled with the need to reclaim and Patrick twisted away leaving Pete to curl in on himself and whine at the lost contact. He tried to comfort himself with the rationalisation that he was doing it to protect Pete, a tactic that rarely worked.
In the morning Patrick woke to find his hand fisted in Pete's t-shirt, despite the distance he had tried to maintain between them. Pete was facing him, looking as if he hadn't slept a minute, confusion in his eyes.
Patrick got used to being the lead singer, giving up the anonymity of his basement to appear on stage each night, but it didn't stop the worry that someone in the audience would just know. He knew there were others like him, like his second cousin Rory. He knew that some of the others weren't exactly house broken. But when he lost himself in a song he gave himself over to all those sculpted noises, not quite words, that were closer to yips and growls than he would have liked to believe. It was a freedom he rarely allowed himself, where he and the wolf were in harmony. He knew it made him all the more obvious to anyone with canine hearing or a familiarity with his kind. It was only a matter of time until someone called him on it, or threatened his band members in ways they couldn't hope to deal with.
Sitting in a grotty chain diner at some hour between night and morning he felt the tension radiate from his bandmates. Their questions had been mounting up and his vague evasive answers had only made them more suspicious. Tours were getting longer, media interest was growing and he realised that if he didn't break his silence he'd eventually lose everything - both the chance to make the music he loved and the three best friends he'd ever known.
Pete was turned as far away as was possible while sitting opposite him. His eyes spoke of a betrayal and nameless hurt that made the wolf whimper.
Andy, ever the pragmatist, was first to start:
"Whatever it is, 'Trick, you can tell us," he said solemnly, wearing his most earnest face.
"What is it, man?" Joe chipped in, and rambled on: "Do you want more downtime? To pick the music in the van? Longer practices? That sax solo in that new song about tarantulas being a metaphor for high school? I don't know where we're gonna get a sax player but we'll work something out, 'kay?"
"Joe, let the man speak," Andy cut him off.
Pete remained mute.
Patrick took a deep breath, inhaling the congealing syrup on his plate along with the potential for his next words to destroy everything.
"Guys," he started, falteringly. "You know how I explained about that medical condition where I have to stay in bed once a month -"
"You weren't named P.M.S. for nothing!" Joe chimed in. Andy silenced him with a look.
"- and how I tried to be vegan but fainted from lack of iron, how when my second cousin Rory was four he tried to bite Joe, how I have to shave twice a day and I'm completely, incredibly, deathly allergic to silver? Well . . . I'm a werewolf."
He dropped the w-bomb and waited for a response.
Pete finally looked at him and his face registered disgust as he hopped the booth and flung himself out the door.
Andy and Joe exchanged looks before Andy tried, in a placating tone:
"And why do you think that makes you a werewolf?"
Patrick expected this. The next night was the full moon and there were other, more visual, ways to make them believe him.
The distance between them became almost habitual but Patrick still kept tabs on Pete. They may not have slept side by side anymore, the easy familiarity replaced with mistrust and hurt, but Patrick made an effort to know where he was at all times, and not just because he knew that the monsters under your bed are real.
Joe and Andy were great. Andy, after a barrage of logistical questions, went into organisational mode, making sure they had plans for Patrick's monthly transformations, cover stories and an ample supply of meat-based products. Joe, well, he mostly just made inappropriate jokes, the same way he would about any other touchy subject. But Pete? Patrick didn't even know why Pete was having such a hard time with it. He had managed to efficiently remove himself from Patrick's life apart from the minutes they spent onstage together, not an easy feat given their compact living space. More worryingly, his exuberant stage antics seemed to have become a quest to see how much physical punishment he could take. And he hadn't given Patrick any lyrics for weeks.
At soundcheck for that night's gig in Michigan? Missouri? Mount Rushmore? Joe came bounding up to Patrick from behind and tried to knock the omnipresent trucker cap off his head.
"Hey, hey! You should wear this instead," he said, holding out a costume wolf head, his grin almost as big as the goofy plastic teeth of the proffered item.
"Fuck off," Patrick laughed, ducking out of the way. He was careful to utilise his wolf reflexes just enough to keep his cap on his head, and not enough to shred the offending fake-fur hat. He risked a glance over to Pete's spot only to see him drop his bass and watch him disappear into the darkness offstage.
Pete made it back for the show with about two seconds to spare. He had some spectacular hickeys and finger shaped bruises were visible along his hip bones where his t-shirt rode up. Andy counted them in and Patrick lost himself in what had become the new routine: get through the songs without registering the waves of resentment coming from his left hand side. There was something further off about Pete's presence that night, though. Patrick could smell dried come, desperation and nothing faintly metallic.
Patrick sang his heart out, as always, and Joe did so many spins even he began to look dizzy. Pete added the minimum of banter, but it was enough to ensure that the crowd didn't notice anything was wrong. After the last bits of feedback had died away he was off again. With a quick apology to the others for leaving them to pack up all the instruments Patrick rushed after him.
He lost him in the pheromonal smorgasbord of the venue, checked the van, checked the bar next door (or got the bouncer to) then paused in a dark alley to regroup. Something about Pete's recent disregard for his own wellbeing and his extra erratic behaviour that night convinced Patrick that a lot was at stake. He shifted briefly into wolf form to get the full use of his senses.
Silence, then late night city sounds, glass breaking, dogs barking then quietening as they acknowledged his ancient predatory superiority, and the unmistakable sound of flesh hitting concrete, followed by a bloom of blood scent.
He raced to the site of the blood, shifting back before coming into view. From behind a dumpster he saw Pete, face smashed against a wall, hands scrabbling for purchase, underwear yanked down. A heavyset man with a half-assed green mohawk and some stunningly ugly bulldog tattoos was holding him there by the back of his neck, making pre-emptory thrusts. There was fear emanating from Pete. But not as much as there should have been.
Anger coursed through his veins as he lunged at the back of the man, shifting into the wolf midway, and attached his jaws to the back of a meaty thigh. The man bellowed and reached around to thwack Patrick's muzzle, but the wolf was too strong and immovable jaws opened only to clamp down on the offending arm until Patrick's teeth met bone with a satisfying, grinding crunch. The man roared and struggled to get away. Patrick released him and growled a warning as he watched him stagger away down the alley, eyes wide, clutching his ruined arm to his chest.
He shifted back and reached out a hand to Pete's shoulder, who still stood immobilised against the wall.
"Just don't," Pete's voice cracked as he looked over his shoulder, his eyes pleading.
Patrick bent down and pulled up Pete's jeans, carefully buttoning them, re-threading and fastening the belt. He didn't say a word as he supported Pete's side and led him back to the van.
"I didn't believe it at first, you know?"
Pete's injuries had healed completely since the attack. Patrick could see a small scar on the side of his mouth where his lip had been split open, but he doubted anyone else could. They'd had a few tentative conversations in the intervening weeks, but this was the first time Pete had broached the subject directly.
"Even when Joe and Andy saw it. Saw you. I couldn't believe that you'd been something else all that time and hadn't told me."
Sitting side by side on the grass, Pete drew his knees up and curled around them protectively, staring at the patch of scorched weeds between his feet.
Patrick started: "I didn't mean-"
"And then I thought you were messing with me," Pete cut in. "Messing with the weirdo with the overactive imagination who can't climb out of the nightmare images in his head sometimes. After all I told you . . . "
Patrick reached over and put a hand on the back of Pete's neck, willing him to turn and look his way. He wanted to hold him, to curl up side by side like they used to, but Pete shrugged him off. His self-protective posture, guarded by elbows, left Patrick no way in.
"I'm sorry. Really truly sorry. That's all I can say."
Pete glanced up for a second, then back at his feet. "If you'd told me anything. That you're the king of the goddamn werewolves, that you're a time traveller from the future, that we're all figments of your imagination, I would have believed you," Pete insisted. Then added quietly: "If you'd just told me first."
Patrick's heart clenched. His careful plan of hiding what he was, of pretending to be "normal" so that he could live this decidedly not normal life with Pete and the band had backfired spectacularly. He wondered which of them he'd been deceiving the most.
"I'm sorry," he tried again, voice thick with emotion. "Do you think you can . . . can we ever go back?"
"Don't ask that, 'Trick," Pete said softly as he got up and walked away.
"This is the life!" Joe proclaimed, xbox controller in one hand, a handful of fattening snacks in the other as he colonised the front lounge of FOB's very first tour bus.
"Oi!" said Andy, slapping his feet off the seat. "Do you think we could avoid the cliché of trashing the bus until at least the second week of our tour?"
"I'll just tell the record company that the "dog" ate it," Joe wheezed out, laughing far too much at his own joke. Patrick whined his disagreement from his bunk, the one Joe had helpfully written "kennel" above in Sharpie, while his two bandmates went back to killing zombies or Nazis or whatevers.
Pete emerged from the back lounge with Patrick's ipod and speakers, arranged them near the head of the bunk and pressed play on the Wolfietime playlist. Patrick could control his wolf nature just as well on a full moon as any other night, but the once-a-month mandatory wolf form made it a little impossible to operate electronics. Sigur Ros streamed out of the ipod and Patrick lazily burrowed into his pile of blankets.
Pete crouched on the floor and, to Patrick's surprise, tentatively laid his head next to the wolf's russet form. They had managed to forge a tense working relationship for the sake of the band but were still far from the closeness they used to enjoy. Pete at least seemed more amenable to him in wolf form and Patrick reveled in the moments where they approached affection. He lay still as Pete slowly and gently stroked behind his ear, until he unwittingly hit Patrick's favourite spot, causing him to stretch and curl automatically under the soothing ministrations.
"You know, I don't know how I could have missed this," Pete said, and Patrick's ears pricked up to show he was listening. "You didn't tell me, but you still showed me all of you, everything about you. I just didn't see it."
Patrick tracked his movements as Pete produced several of the unlined spiral notebooks that he favoured and stashed them under the hat that was tucked into the corner of the bunk, ready for Patrick's return to human form. Patrick raised his muzzle questioningly.
"New lyrics," Pete supplied. "To explain. To apologise. Maybe not for the next album. Unless we're going for an American Werewolf in Fall Out Boy concept. Actually, that's not so bad . . . "
"That's really not fair, Pete," Andy yelled from the lounge. "Talking to Patrick when he can't answer back."
"He's wrong," Pete whispered. "I finally hear you loud and clear."
Patrick nuzzled into his hand and the tension that he had been carrying started to seep out of his muscles. For the first time since that awful night in the diner he started to think things might be heading towards being ok. He tried to cement in his mind all the reasons why a werewolf theme for the next album would be a terrible idea so that he could begin arguing his case first thing in the morning, but sleep dragged him down. The wolf was rejoicing in the renewed bond between him and Pete and wanted nothing more than to sink down into its favourite dream of them running together in a boundless meadow. Patrick tried not to think about what it meant that Pete was a wolf, too, in this dream.
He was on the edge of sleep when he heard Pete shout through to the others:
"Hey, I've had a great idea for our next video: Patrick's a good werewolf and we all hunt evil werewolves. There can be all these werewolf gangs and we can ask Bilvy and the Panic kids to be in it. Patrick won't even need a costume!"
He heard Andy strangle a cry and Joe fall off the sofa laughing.
Patrick's lip curled in horror as he growled to signal his displeasure. Pete just clambered over him and folded himself into the bunk, fitting snugly to his back, face pressed to fur, arms holding tight around his ribs.
"Don't worry," he whispered. "You're my wolf. There's no way I'd risk losing you again."
The final pieces of worry fell away from Patrick as both he and the wolf felt the bond between Pete and himself lock into place. The whole tricky "mating for life" issue was a conversation for another day.
"We'll make it vampires or something, for the video," Pete mumbled as he drifted off to sleep. Patrick followed moments later, his mate's feet tangled with his rhythmically thumping tail.